Do you ever have times when it just seems like your well of inspiration is running dry?
Creative burnout can be very real.
When you are running a business you need to make sure your are delivering for your clients and everything is on time and running smoothly. But beyond that? The working ON your business, the expanding of your own skills and personal development can all become stressors when you are busy with just getting work done. Things like writing blog or effective Instagram posts, and taking courses, and continuing to stay on top of trends can sometimes become more of a chore than a joy.
That’s not a good thing.
If you’re a photographer, you might find yourself always using certain poses. If you’re a calligrapher, you might find yourself always doing certain parts of a letterform the exact same way. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having certain aspects of your work have a distinct look and style, sometimes you just need to try something new to bring life and energy back into your work.
So, what are some ways we can get inspired, breathe energy into our business and fuel our sense of creativity?
Over time, I’ve discovered a few things that really help me when I’m feeling like I need to bring some new life into my work. While some of these are design-focused, I’ve tried to include ideas that would work for anyone creative or running a small business.
Stop your scroll, sign out of Instagram, and turn your computer off for real. Not only is excessive screen time draining, but constant influence from social media can leave you stuck in a comparison cycle and dull your sense of unique artistry. There are so many amazing artists and creative professionals out there. But, when you are only looking at the way other people do things, you are going to lose your own flavor and unique perspective.
So take some time off from the screen and when you do come back to it, be aware of these influences that may not be positive for your work.
There’s just something about a beautiful print magazine that feels so creatively energizing. Magazines are an immense amount of work to put together. Editors work carefully to make sure the wording, photography and type design work together, and often I pick up on new ideas through paying close attention to the way each article or piece of content is laid out. Luxury catalogs can also be a great source of inspiration.
After you’ve finished reading those catalogs and magazines, don’t just throw them away! When you see something you like or that inspires you, cut it out and tuck it into a binder for future reference. I also save paint chips, promotions from companies, business cards and anything that’s well-designed.
Then, when I feel like I’m in a rut, I pull out the binder and look through it and try using a new idea from what I’ve collected. This could work for photographers, wedding professionals, copywriters, calligraphers–anyone who is in the visual arts.
P. S. I’m not advocating that you become a copycat! This is about taking elements you’ve found off-line and putting them together in your own way to come up with something completely new.
Stores like J. Crew, Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Ralph Lauren and even Starbucks, and all luxury stores are crafted with all the details of a branded experience designed to evoke emotion in order to sell. I love browsing these places without shopping in mind, because I’m looking at signage, racks, posters, the way things are displayed etc.
These companies spend millions of dollars every year getting their displays and advertising right and there’s something creatives can learn from watching. So pick the nicest mall in your area and spend a day aesthetic-hunting instead of shopping.
Systematizing creative work can make it more profitable, but we don’t want to lose the spark of originality that defines true artists. Find a new location to work, or take photos. Explore a different part of town. Go in a storefront that you usually wouldn’t go to. Take a photo in a place you’ve never taken one before. Use a color you would never use.
Some people do good work under pressure. But there’s a difference between good work and great work. I want to do great work. Sometimes this means taking a break and putting away the computer for the rest of the afternoon even when that seems like the most counterproductive thing to do. I always find myself refreshed and ready to tackle a project with new energy and creativity when I intentionally set aside time to recharge.
Instead of just looking at other people’s work, get to know them on a personal level. I love bouncing ideas back and forth with other designers, talking about what is and isn’t working for us and giving each other thoughts and ideas.
(If you’re looking for a way to connect with other creatives locally, try finding a local chapter of The Rising Tide Society! I have made many great friends through this organization.)
Did you read that right? Yes, that’s what I said. Well, consistently working on your process, your design, your style and your ideas is the quickest way to get actually improve the quality of your work. There’s plenty of research to back up the idea that the more you create work, even if it’s mediocre, the more likely you are to get immensely better at what you are doing. People like Mozart and Picasso created huge amounts of finished work, even though they are known for maybe a few things really well. So create, create, create. If you commit to just trying one new thing within the scope of what you already do, you will come up with things that are fresh and interesting more often than not.